Recently, the FOX Fantasy department had a discussion about roster turnover. In mixed leagues, some players bounce in and out of free-agent pools all year long. Are these guys destined to be fantasy baseball drifters, or do owners’ regular flirtations with them suggest that they’re on their way to sustained value?
We pulled some data from last year’s FOXSports.com leagues to see which players cycled through rosters most often, and examined whether or not they’ll be useful to fantasy owners this season. As you can imagine, we found a mixed bag that mostly contains starting pitchers.
Jerad Eickhoff, SP, Phillies
2016 adds on FOXSports.com: 7,937
2016 drops on FOXSports.com: 6,352
Eickhoff was our most added player in 2016. He was better than you think, finishing the season with a 3.65 ERA (29th in MLB), a 1.16 WHIP (20th) and 167 strikeouts (T-34). On the downside, he throws a lot of fly balls in a homer-friendly park, and his 4.19 FIP suggests that a statistical decline is ahead. I’ve got Eickhoff ranked at SP58, which makes him draftable but not worthy of the investment that last year’s numbers might suggest.
Getty ImagesStephen Dunn
Matt Moore, SP, Giants
2016 adds on FOXSports.com: 7,379
2016 drops on FOXSports.com: 6,467
Moore will be spending less time on the wire this season, as his fortunes improved after last season’s trade to San Francisco. His ERA was a subpar 4.08 in 12 starts as a Giant, but he whiffed more than a batter per inning – something he’s never done over a full season.
Also, remember that Moore is a fly-ball pitcher who now starts home games in a ballpark that has been MLB’s stingiest to home runs for three consecutive seasons. I’ve always been a sucker for Moore, but even through my rose-colored glasses I can see that he’s in an ideal spot to succeed. He’s inside my top 40 among starting pitchers.
Tyler Chatwood, SP, Rockies
2016 adds on FOXSports.com: 6,860
2016 drops on FOXSports.com: 6,105
Without spending more time poring through the data, we can assume that Chatwood’s yo-yo 2016 fantasy availability was based on his home-road splits. He had a 6.12 ERA in 78 innings at Coors Field, and a 1.69 ERA in 80 road innings. Unfortunately, Chatwood’s underlying stats looked similarly bad wherever he pitched, and his road xFIP (4.40) was actually worse than his mark in Denver. Pass, no matter where he pitches.
Jon Gray, SP, Rockies
2016 adds on FOXSports.com: 6,619
2016 drops on FOXSports.com: 5,513
Rockies’ starters that are rosterable in mixed leagues are like unicorns. You’d never let a unicorn go after the 15th round of a fantasy baseball draft, right?
Seriously, a high-strikeout, ground-ball skillset is probably the only chance a pitcher has to succeed at Coors, and Gray has it. He’s talented, throws hard, and was better at home than on the road in 2016. Come on – give him a chance.
Jeremy Hellickson, SP, Phillies
2016 adds on FOXSports.com: 6,825
2016 drops on FOXSports.com: 5,587
Hellickson again figures to bounce back and forth between fantasy rosters and the free-agent pool. His strikeout rate is below average, and he’ll probably have an ERA in the 4.00s. You’ll be able to stream him against teams like the Padres and Brewers, or maybe the Braves. Beyond that … nah.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY SportsRick Osentoski
Ian Kennedy, SP, Royals
2016 adds on FOXSports.com: 6,843
2016 drops on FOXSports.com: 4,905
Only James Shields has allowed more home runs than Kennedy’s 64 over the last two seasons. It’s pretty hard to serve up longballs so frequently when you start half your games in Kauffman Stadium. Kennedy isn’t all bad – over the same span, he ranks 20th in MLB with 368 strikeouts. Still, you probably don’t want to deal with his blowup potential on anything more than a spot-start basis. Back to the free-agent pool for you, Kennedy!
Rick OsentoskiRick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Gausman, SP, Orioles
2016 adds on FOXSports.com: 6,598
2016 drops on FOXSports.com: 5,101
Here’s another guy that you’ll see rostered in most leagues when Opening Day rolls around. Gausman is being drafted as SP36 in NFBC leagues thanks to a strong finish that included a 2.83 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 75 strikeouts in 76 1/3 innings over his final dozen starts. Gausman’s current draft status is a bit too rich for me, but he should be rostered in all leagues, and I don’t think you’ll be looking to waive him. He should be pretty good.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsMark J. Rebilas
Yasmany Tomas, OF, Diamondbacks
2016 adds on FOXSports.com: 6,048
2016 drops on FOXSports.com: 5,057
Wait, people added and dropped hitters, too? Yep. Tomas has power, but as my mom might say, if he hits 31 homers again I’ll eat my hat. He whiffs a lot, rarely walks, hits too many ground balls AND had a probably-unsustainable HR/FB rate of 25 percent last season. I would draft Tomas on the OF3/4 cusp, but there’s some bust potential here.
Odubel Herrera, OF, Phillies
2016 adds on FOXSports.com: 4,787
2016 drops on FOXSports.com: 3,142
Why on Earth did everyone keep dropping Herrera last season? He batted .286 with 15 homers, 87 runs scored and 25 stolen bases. He’s being drafted as OF28 over at NFBC, and I might grab him a little earlier than that. Herrera is a nice little player who has put together a couple of solid seasons. I’m betting on a repeat, along with minimal availability when you search for free-agent outfielders. If I meet Herrera soon, I’ll probably say, “Hi … big fan.”